The 2014 Carolina football season is just a month away, and with preseason training camp just days away, under-the-radar UNC linebacker Jeff Schoettmer, who is coming off offseason shoulder surgery, promises be an impact performer for the Tar Heels this fall.
***Listen to the story***
“Once everyone hits the field, it’s tough seeing the guys you work so hard with compete every day for positions, and I just have to watch from the sidelines. It’s tough, but I had to be mature about it and think of the best possibility I could make out of it, which was rehab my shoulder, get my leg stronger, get my right side stronger, get faster and learn the defense better. I had to stay positive,” Schoettmer says.
Now fully healthy and reenergized, the junior defender and look-alike to the Green Bay Packers’ Clay Mathews appears ready to assume a more vocal leadership role on the UNC defense in his junior season.
“Tim [Scott] and Kareem [Martin] did so well. They were smart and could communicate with us well. That’s what we’re working with the younger guys on this fall – communication between the linebackers and the D-line,” Schoettmer says.
A year ago, Schoettmer recorded a stellar 85 tackles, six quarterback hurries, three pass breakups and a fumble recovery.
Schoettmer played all but two of his games in 2013 at the middle linebacker position, the spot he’ll be lining up in this fall. He says the key to playing his position is open and clear communication.
“I want to know exactly what every person does each play. […] If a free safety wants to be able to talk to me about making a call between a tight end and a running back, we need to be able to communicate that. I think we’ve done a good job of that this summer. The middle linebacker is supposed to know what everybody knows,” Shoettmer says.
Schoettmer, or “Shotty”, as many of his teammates call him, is a fairly laid back individual. In his down time, he can frequently be found teeing it up with buddies out on the golf course. But don’t let that fool you. He’s ferociously competitive on the field.
ACC competition is in Schoettmer’s blood after all. His mother played tennis at WakeForest. His father played linebacker for rival Duke.
Schoettmer says one of the driving forces for his offseason motivation is the sour memory of the defensive debacle against East Carolina last season.
“The ECU game was pathetic, to be honest. We look back on film, and it was one of the worst games in Carolina history. We take that as motivation. The rest of the season, we played pretty good. But that’s not good enough. We got to be a top 20 defense to win the Coastal,” Schoettmer says.
Unlike the lead-up to previous seasons, Schoettmer says the Tar Heels fully expect to come out on top in the ACC Coastal division. He says the locker room is oozing with confidence right now.
“I never felt the camaraderie amongst the guys, and the fact that we know that we can win the Coastal. It’s ours for the taking. […] We got to go out there and do it. Amongst the guys in the locker room, we’re hungry for that. We can feel it more than any year in the past,” Schoettmer says.
An eager Schoettmer and the rest of the Tar Heels will have the chance to take the first step towards a title when they welcome Liberty to Chapel Hill Aug. 30 for the home opener of the Carolina football season.